Yesterday we did a village walk through Kande, the village we’re staying at in Malawi. The population is about 4,500 but definetly didn’t seem that big. It was so interesting to learn more about the community and get a brief glimpse into their life.
Our guide, a local resident, showed us around a few houses and the community, their school and their local clinic.
Malawi is one of the 20 poorest countries in the world, according to the UN’s criteria. The houses are very small, although seemed nicer than Tanzania. The chief of the town (who is elected by the government) gives out land for free to the families, usually after they’re married. They make their own bricks to save on cost, and roofs are usually made of grass, which they replace each year. The wealthier families usually have tin roofs.
The houses are very bare – no furniture, nothing covering the few windows, no door. They roll out mats to sleep on and then all of the cooking and eating is done outside. 10 to 15 people can sleep in each house, with the males in one room, females in another and the kids in the main entry way.
Here the girls usually get married around 14 or 15 (after they finish primary school) and the males are around 18. They’re not arranged marriages though, and the females can decline if they want. When a couple does want to get married, the guy pays the female’s parents, usually in cows. They are expensive here – about $250 dollars, and it can cost up to 3 cows! Women have children right after marriage and usually have 3 to 5 kids.
We also saw the local water wells/pumps (2 for the whole town), some vegetable gardens, chicken coops and more.
We then went to the school which was really fun. Their primary school (1st -6th grade) has 1,500 students and only 10 teachers, so class sizes are huge! Attendance can be an issue as kids often need to work, but the school punishes the parents, rather than the kids, when they’re kept home.
The kids were so friendly and so excited to meet us! They learn English in school so we could talk to all of them. They also have their own language in Kande (there are 24 districts in Malawi, each having their own tribal language), plus a national language of Malawi, so almost everyone is tri-lingual.
School is free to attend, but the school only provides textbooks, so the parents need to buy the uniform, exercise books, paper, pens, etc., which ends up being around $100/student per year. We visited on a Wednesday, which is washing day for their one uniform, which is why they’re wearing normal clothes. We were able to donate money before leaving which was great.
We then went to their local hospital/clinic. Everything there is free, as it’s subsidized by the government, but it’s a very small clinic. They give vaccines, assist in child birth, fix minor cuts and help treat people for malaria. Anything worse than that, they need to go to the bigger hospital which is 70km away and costs money.
They see about 50 patients a day, with malaria being the most common illness. They don’t have a vaccination for malaria, but it is a treatable disease. There are mosquito nets you can put around beds, but most families can’t afford them, and they’re only $10 USD each! We could donate money before leaving the clinic as well.
It was a really great afternoon and so important to learn about the local communities we’re staying in and driving through. Despite their conditions, they were the friendliest people – genuinely happy and just wanted to talk and get to know us.
We’re headed to Zambia tomorrow, which is also one of the 20 poorest countries, so it will be interesting to see how the countries compare.